Whistleblower calls for investigation into HKU law professor

Updated: 2015-09-05 08:06

By Timothy chui in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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Controversial professor accused of violating the neutrality of the city's university

A whistleblower has called for a vigorous investigation into the professor at the center of a schism between University of Hong Kong (HKU) student activists and school management - alleging Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun violated the political neutrality of the city's oldest university.

Chan, from HKU's Centre for Comparative Public Law, is alleged to have recklessly or knowingly collaborated with the US government-funded National Democratic Institute (NDI). The NDI is suspected of fueling last year's "Occupy Central" protests and more recent student revolts, Hong Kong Democracy Watch (HKDW) said in a report.

The counter accusation comes as opposition members and student activists step up campaigns centering on their own claims of political interference. This is after Chan's appointment as HKU's pro-vice-chancellor was deferred by the university council.

The school is facing unprecedented challenges because student activists have been joined by opposition party alumni. They have all been calling for the abolition of HKU's current management structure. A university council meeting was stormed in July and police had to be called after students unlawfully detained council members.

Chan has also led calls for the school's management structure to be changed. This would start with the unprecedented removal of the city's top civil servant as head of the city's universities. This has been a tradition dating back to the various schools' very foundation.

HKDW alleged NDI support was behind mounting pressure by radicalizing students bent on influencing management at universities. It drew parallels to a similar incident at the Hong Kong Baptist University in May.

During the incident at HKU in late July, student leader and council member, Billy Fung Jing-en, allowed his student cohorts into the meeting. Fung remains defiant about his actions. This is despite widespread criticism denouncing the students' immaturity and lack of respect for university procedures.

A close associate of Chan and mastermind of last year's illegal "Occupy" protests, Professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, has already been reprimanded by HKU management for improperly accepting donations to fund "Occupy" protests, which HKDW obstinately attributes to the NDI.

An audit report conducted by the HKU Council also found that Chan's acceptance of anonymous donations, filtered through Tai, "fell short of expected standards", while Chan was a founding member of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor. This was shown to have received more than HK$1.5 million from NDI up to 2013.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has repeatedly warned of foreign political influences seeking to hijack local politics. Student leaders, often with the support of key figures in the opposition camp, have been playing a leading role in anti-government protests in Hong Kong. This includes widespread involvement in protests during the illegal "Occupy" campaign last year.


(HK Edition 09/05/2015 page6)